3 Steps To Prepare For The Employee Who Contracts Coronavirus

 

(1) Monitor

(2) Respond

(3) Reintroduce

 

  1. Monitor employees with screening, health checks, and education

  • The CDC provides guidance for screening employees including daily in-person or virtual health checks.
  • The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated guideline on March 18 to allow employers to take employees’ temperatures as part of regular health screening. It also allows employers to ask if the employee has had symptom related to COVID-19 and to stay out of the workplace when necessary.
    • Ask employees to take their temperature at home. Employees registering a fever should avoid the workplace and self-quarantine. The CDC recommends 100.4 F and above as the threshold.
    • Ensure screening procedures are safe and consistent and give proper notice.
    • Encourage employees to self-monitor. Educate the employee about measures they can take outside of the workplace to avoid contracting the virus.
    • Solutions like AiRISTA Flow’s Social Distancing and Contact Tracing platform provide a simple questionnaire for regular employee self-screening. Questions can be set up by HR following CDC recommendations and delivered to the employee via a smart phone app.
    • Employees who are symptomatic can be barred from entering the workplace (see previous blog)
  • EEOC guidelines do not require employees to report if they are COVID-19 positive or show symptoms
  • OSHA encourages creation of an infection education & prevention plan: hand washing, respiratory etiquette, tissue and trash receptacles, and housekeeping practices (1)
  • Provide employees regular reminders about prevention and the spread of the coronavirus as well as ways to act on the information (2). The CDC provides guidance in the event a family member becomes sick.
  • Note, temperature screening can result in false negatives. The CDC points to studies where 83-99% of COVID positive people developed fever, but other studies showed only 44%. Moreover, infectious people may not show symptoms for 2-14 days after infection.
  1. Document a response plan in the event of an employee illness

  • If an employee tests positive, they should avoid the workplace and contact a healthcare provider who will inform local heath officials if tests come back positive. Make the employee aware of the CDC’s recommend steps during self-quarantine. Employee medical information is private and should be handled by designated company personnel.
    • Employers should contact local health officials for further guidance.
    • The employer is not required to provide the employee remote work as an option (3).
  • OSHA advises that a case of COVID-19 is a recordable event if the following are true (4)
    • The COVID-19 illness is confirmed
    • Contracting the virus was work related
    • Recording criteria outlined in 29 CFR 19047
  • If other employees have had contact with the symptomatic employee, the CDC recommends employers inform other employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19. This also applies to visitors. The name of the infected person should be treated as confidential as required by the ADA.
    • As a precautionary measure, an employer may want to consider asking all employees who worked closely with that employee to self-quarantine for 14 days to better ensure the virus does not spread.
  • Solutions like the AiRISTA Flow platform include automated contact tracing. The solution provides employee tags which automatically record contacts between workers including time and duration. Reports can filter on time period and contact duration to help identify coworkers who should be informed. The platform allows HR to setup automated notices delivered to affected employees via email or text.
  • The CDC advises the following cleaning protocols for potentially infected areas of the workplace
    • If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee has been in the facility, close any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person.
    • Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for other employees being exposed to respiratory droplets. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
    • To disinfect surfaces, use products that meet EPA criteria for use against SARS-Cov-2, and are appropriate for the surface.
  • The AiRISTA Flow solution provides “spot” location tracking to help highlight areas that might need deep cleaning. Location spots are captured each time a tag uploads its stored contacts to the cloud – the unique ID of the uploading gateway (access point, AiRISTA Flow gateway, etc.) is captured along with the time. Administrators are able to enter the physical location of these gateways into a report in the portal UI (e.g. “break room, “lobby”).
  1. Guidelines for introducing the recovered employee back to the workplace

  • Although the ADA allows employers to require a doctor’s note to return, the CDC advises against such a policy because the healthcare community may be overwhelmed and a doctor’s note isn’t practical. The CDC’s guidelines for discontinuing home isolation should be sufficient.

 

 

 

 

Resources

CDC - www.cdc.gov

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services - www.flu.gov


OSHA – www.osha.gov


The World Health Organization - www.who.int


CDC Emergency Response Hotline for health employers - (770) 488-7100

 

  1. OSHA 3990-03 2020, Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
  2. McDermott Will & Emery, “Coronavirus FAQs for US Employers”, May 6 2020
  3. Kiplinger, “COVID-19 at Work: Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities”, Dennis Beaver, April 29 2020
  4. Harvard Business Review, “What are a Company’s Legal Obligations Around Coronavirus?”, May 4 2020